Michael Psellos on Spiritual Gifts and Prophecy (Part 3)

Below completes my translation of Opusculum 60 from Gautier’s edition of Psellos’s Theologica.  Psellos continues his discussion on speaking in tongues and prophecy, in characteristically learned fashion.  He cites an additional oration of Gregory (Or. 16) along with citing several classical myths and texts.  Finally he extrapolates the discussion on spiritual gifts and applies it to his own context: a school with different subjects.  

Regarding current day debates, Psellos makes no comment about the gift of tongues ceasing, nor the gift of prophecy.  He does note in the prior part that the gift of prophecy was “most especially active during the time of Paul,” and he feels the need to apply this passage here to his own context after explaining what Paul and Gregory meant.  His discussion of free-will is also noteworthy.  Rather than understanding the spiritual gifts as something which “overcome” the will of the person, they are rather subject to the person’s discretion to encourage our restrain. He draws a contrast here with several classical examples (Ino and the Korybantes), where people lost control and gave themselves up in an ecstatic frenzy.  

English Translation

Other people, who receive gifts like administering souls, or interpreting tongues, think less about spiritual gifts, but those who speak in different languages, since they clearly have the breath of the Spirit on their tongue, make a big deal about their gift and think that they are superior to others because of their spiritual gift.  The apostle Paul evaluates their position lower, as the least important in the Church.  Thus the great father makes this clear when he says, “I would rather speak five words in the Church with understanding than thousands with the indistinct sound of a trumpet.”*

For he reveals both sides of the spiritual gifts.  By saying, “five words” he refers to those that teach from themselves, without speaking in different languages, but by the “thousands of indistinct words” he indicates those who speak in all sorts of languages, who nevertheless do not encourage the divine soldier onto the spiritual battle.  Thus the apostle exhorts these (if I may speak thus) overly-wordy ones to not entirely bridle the impulse for speaking in tongues.  Nor does he encourage them, if they begin to speak, to stretch the message out for a long time, until they come upon every single language.  Rather they are to speak in tongues, and then when the Spirit wills, another should be moved by the Spirit to interpret, as if they have “given up horsemanship”*  to stand.  

Lest any of these rabble-rousers say that bridling speech is for another, and that it’s not their responsibility to reign in the length of their message, he continues saying, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (1 Cor 14:32) The prophetic gift does not alter your faculty of reason, he says, nor does this gift of the Spirit displace your mind, nor does it throw you into some sort of Korybantic* in frenzy and make you mad, replacing order for mania, like some sort of drunken Ino.  Nothing could stop her running, neither hollow nor steep descent, nor a deep cave, nor thick wood.*  

The Divine Spirit does not move the soul in this manner, but instead transforms it for the better, allows the faculty of reason, and even gives the faculty of reason as a bridle for the tongue.  This is done so that, when one wishes, one can spur on the course of speech, and again, if one wishes, one can hold firm the reigns and restrain the course of speech.  Since “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” it is the prerogative of each to encourage their speech or to keep it quiet.  Has your talk run from the starting point to the finish line of your discussion? Then restrain yourself, and let another interpret, for the gift is under your control.  Restrain yourself either before you begin, or when you’ve spoken a bit, and your speech has reached “full bloom” and you’re rounding the final-turn, then let another person interpret, while you restrain the impulse to speak.  

This passage applies not only to these sorts of problems, but let us also consider our own instruction.  Let there be disciplinary boundaries.  Let one speak as a rhetor, another as a philosopher, and another speak about geometric figures. Let this one explain how the stars and sun are placed in the sky, and thus how the division of years is made. Let another teach something about music, and how the different notes combine to form a single harmony, which seems to be simple and undivided to listeners.  But speak on these matters without confusion, without  everyone talking at once.  Rather while one is philosophizing, let the rhetor withdraw, and when the rhetor is teaching about the beauty of words let the philosopher be silent.  If you do this, then you will wisely manage both your own nature, from where the flow of the tongue comes, and your shared river of learning, apportioned equally to all the different streams, which you will show with gentleness and without pain.  

Notes

 A quote from Gregory Naz. Orat. 16.2, who in turn is paraphrasing Paul in 1 Cor 14:19.  Gautier was unable to find this in Gregory, but (God be praised!) the TLG allows one to find it pretty easily.  Gregory uses the passage here a bit ironically, to defend his father’s silence following a natural disaster.  

This is a reference to Aristophanes’ Clouds 109, but I don’t exactly understand it.  At this point in the play, two characters are discussing Socrates’ school of philosophy ironically, and one is urged to “give up horsemanship” and go to the school.  

The Korybantes were said to have presided over the birth of Dionysus, and their ecstatic frenzies were comparable to the maenads of Dionysus.

Ino helped raised Dionysus, and killed herself by lunging herself into the sea.  See here for more information and ancient citations.

Greek Text

Καὶ ἐπειδὴ οἱ μὲν ἄλλοι τῶν ἀξιουμένων τῆς χάριτος ἀντιλαμβανόμενοι τῶν ψυχῶν ἢ κυβερνῶντες ἢ διερμηνεύοντες ἔλαττον ἐφρόνουν ἐπὶ τοῖς χαρίσμασιν, οἱ δὲ διαφόρους διαλέκτους φθεγγόμενοι, ὡς ἐπίδηλον ἐπὶ τῆς γλώσσης τοῦ πνεύματος τὴν ἐπίπνοιαν ἔχοντες, ἐκόμπαζον ἐπὶ τῷ χαρίσματι καὶ προκεκρίσθαι τῶν ἄλλων κατὰ πνευματικὴν ἀξίωσιν ᾤοντο, καταστέλλει τούτους ὁ μέγας ἀπόστολος ὡς ἔλαττον τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ λυσιτελοῦντας· ὃ δὴ καὶ ὁ μέγας παρεμφαίνων πατήρ, ἐμοί, φησί, πέντε γένοιτο λόγους ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ λαλῆσαι μετὰ συνέσεως ἢ μυρίους ἐν φωνῇ σάλπιγγος ἀσήμῳ.

ἄμφω γὰρ δείκνυσι τὰ χαρίσματα, διὰ μὲν τῶν πέντε φωνῶν τοὺς αὐτόθεν διδάσκοντας καὶ μὴ διαφόροις γλώσσαις προσομιλοῦντας, διὰ δὲ τῶν μυρίων καὶ ἀσήμων λόγων τοὺς κατὰ πᾶσαν μὲν γλῶτταν φθεγγομένους, τὸν δὲ θεῖον ὁπλίτην πρὸς τὸν πνευματικὸν πόλεμον οὐκ ἐγείροντας. ὅθεν καὶ παρεγγυᾶται ὁ ἀπόστολος τούτοις δή, ἵν’ οὕτως εἴπω, τοῖς γλωττηματικοῖς μὴ πᾶσαν ἐνδιδόναι ἡνίαν τῇ φορᾷ τῶν γλωσσῶν, μηδέ, ἐπειδὰν ἄρξωνται λέγειν, εἰς μακρὸν κατατείνειν λόγον, μέχρις ἂν τὰς πάσας φωνὰς διεξέλθωσιν, ἀλλὰ φθέγγεσθαι μὲν γλώσσαις, ὁπόταν δὴ τὸ πνεῦμα βούλοιτο, ἑτέρου δὲ διερμηνεύειν κινηθέντος ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος, ὥσπερ ‘σχασαμένους ἱππικὴν’ ἵστασθαι.

Ἵνα δὲ μή τις εἴπῃ τῶν οὕτω κατεγλωττισμένων ὡς ἐφ’ ἑτέρῳ ἡ τοῦ λέγειν ἡνία καὶ οὐ παρ’ ἐμοὶ τὸ ἀνασειράζειν ῥυτῆρσι τοῦ λόγου τὸν δρόμον, ἐπάγει ὅτι ‘τὰ τῶν προφητῶν πνεύματα τοῖς προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται’. οὐ γὰρ παραλλάττει σοι τὴν διάνοιαν τὸ προφητικόν, φησί, χάρισμα οὐδὲ τὸν νοῦν ἐξιστᾷ, οὐδ’ ὥσπερ οἴστρῳ βάλλον κορυβαντιᾶν καὶ μεμηνέναι ποιεῖ, εἰς μανιώδη μετάγον κατάστασιν, ὥσπερ τὴν μυθευομένην Ἰνώ, ἣν οὐδὲν ἵστα τοῦ δρόμου, οὐ κοῖλον, οὐκ ὄρθιον, οὐ φάραγξ βαθεῖα καὶ ὕλη συνηρεφής.

οὐχ οὕτω τὸ θεῖον πνεῦμα κινεῖ τὴν ψυχήν, ἀλλὰ μεταποιεῖ μὲν ταύτην ἐπὶ τὸ βέλτιον, ἐᾷ δὲ τὴν διάνοιαν, μᾶλλον δὲ ἐφιστάνει τῇ γλώττῃ ὥσπερ ἡνίοχον, ἵν’, ὅτε μὲν βούλοιτο, πρὸς τὸν δρόμον μυωπίζῃ, ὅταν δ’ αὖ ἐθέλοι, ἐπέχῃ τὴν ἡνίαν καὶ τοῦ δρόμου ταύτην ἱστᾷ. ὑποτάσσεται τοιγαροῦν τοῖς προφήταις τὰ πνεύματα, πρὸς τὴν ἐκείνων διάνοιαν καταστελλόμενα ἢ ἐγειρόμενα. τρέχει σοι ἡ γλῶττα ἐκ πρώτης ἀφετηρίας πρὸς τὴν τῶν διαλέκτων νύσσαν; ἀλλ’ ἔπεχε ταύτην, ἑτέρου διερμηνεύοντος, ὑποτάττεται γάρ σοι τὸ χάρισμα· ἔπεχε δὲ ἢ καὶ πρὶν ἄρξασθαι, ἢ καὶ βραχύ τι προβάς, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀκμάζων καὶ πρὸς τῷ καμπτῆρι τυγχάνων, ἑτέρου διερμηνεύειν λαχόντος, ἀναστέλλου σὺ τῆς φορᾶς.

Τοῦτο μὴ ἐξήγησιν μόνον τῶν διαπορηθέντων, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡμετέραν παιδαγωγίαν ἡγώμεθα. ἔστωσαν τοιγαροῦν ὑμῖν ὅροι τῶν διαλόγων, καὶ ὁ μέν τις ῥητορευέτω, ὁ δὲ φιλοσοφείτω καὶ ἄλλος περὶ σχημάτων ἀποδεικνύτω, καὶ οὗτος μὲν ὅπως τὰ ἄστρα στηρίζοιντο διερμηνευέτω καὶ τὴν κατὰ μῆκος ἐποχὴν τοῦ ἡλίου τρανούτω καὶ τὴν ἐντεῦθεν ἀναφαινομένην διαίρεσιν τῶν ὡρῶν, ἐκεῖνος δὲ περὶ μουσικῆς τι διδασκέτω καὶ ὅπως τὰ διάφορα τῶν μελῶν εἰς μίαν ἁρμονίαν κιρνάμενα μονοειδῶς ἐμπίπτει ταῖς ἀκοαῖς· φθέγγεσθε δὲ ταῦτα μὴ συγκεχυμένως μηδὲ κατὰ θροῦν ἄσημον, ἀλλ’ ἑτέρου φιλοσοφοῦντος ὁ ῥητορεύων ὑποχωρείτω, κἀντεῦθεν τούτου περὶ κάλλους ὀνομάτων διδάσκοντος ὁ περὶ τὸν νοῦν σιγάτω. ἂν οὕτω ποιῆτε, τήν τε πηγήν, ἵνα μὴ λέγω ἐμέ, ὁπόθεν ὑμῖν τὸ ῥεῦμα τῆς γλώττης ἐρρύη, ἥτις ἐστὶ τὴν φύσιν, σαφῶς παραστήσετε, τόν τε ὑμέτερον ποταμόν, ὁμαλῶς τοῖς ὀχετοῖς μεριζόμενον, ἀλυπότατον καὶ προσηνέστατον τοῖς ῥεύμασι δείξετε.

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Michael Psellos on Prophecy and Spiritual Gifts (Part 2)

This part and half of the next section deal most explicitly Gregory’s assertion about the mysterious “type of gift.”  Psellos begins with a bit of pneumatology, describing the nature of the Spirit.  He acknowledges that the Spirit gives different gifts, but wants to prevent his students from therefore inferring that the Spirit himself is divided.  He then describes the different spiritual gifts, and notes how only speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues are not complete in themselves: they require one another to be most effective.  He offers an example, and then tells us that this complementarity between speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues is what Gregory means when he says, “there is a type of gift, which requires another to distinguish what is better.”  

English Translation

The Holy Spirit, being one properly and accurately according to the meaning of the word ‘one,’ in himself touches and grasps all things.  He is not formed from many things, nor divided, like the raving Numenius says, but is established in himself, proceeds to all places, is not separated from the One, and is shared among the many.  

But he is varied in the intentions and motives with which he comes to those who receive him.  Thus to one he comes to bring comprehension, to another he brings the gift of administration, and to another he pours languages upon the tongue, and to another the gift of interpreting what was said.  For whoever offers his own soul becomes worthy of receiving an appropriate spiritual gift.  But to be entrusted with the instruction of souls, or to lead and direct souls from the sea to the divine fire, or any of the other which the great Apostle lists for us, are complete in themselves and do not require another gift to complement them.  But to speak in tongues is to speak the languages of those present fluently: for example, at one moment to speak Babylonian, at another Persian, and then Assyrian.  This gift is not as powerful in itself, and becomes vastly more beneficial for those present when combined with the gift of interpretation.

For what use is it to a person walking by the prophets if he’s an Arab, and they’re speaking Attic Greek? Or if he knows the Attic tongue, but they’re speaking the Phoenician language?  But if someone with the gift of interpretation is present, he can interpret what is said and translate the speech into a language that the listener understands.  Don’t you see how the this gift brings the gift of tongues to perfection?  This then is what both the apostle and the passage from the Theologian (i.e. Gregory) mean when he says, “there is a type of gift, which requires another for the judgment of what is better.”  This is the gift of interpretation, when someone has spoken in tongues.  

Greek Text

Τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, ἓν ὂν κυρίως κατὰ τὴν ἀκριβῆ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἔννοιαν, αὐτῷ δὴ τῷ ἑνὶ πάντων ἅπτεται, πάντων δράττεται, οὐ πολλαπλασιαζόμενον ἢ μεριζόμενον κατὰ τὸν μαινόμενον Νουμήνιον, ἀλλ’ ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἱδρυμένον καὶ πανταχοῦ προϊὸν καὶ τοῦ ἑνὸς μὴ ἐξιστάμενον, καὶ τοῖς πολλοῖς μετεχόμενον.

μερίζεται δὲ ταῖς τῶν δεχομένων διαφόροις γνώμαις καὶ προαιρέσεσιν· ὅθεν τῷ μὲν εἰς ἀντίληψιν γίνεται, τῷ δὲ εἰς κυβέρνησιν, τῷ δὲ τὰς διαλέκτους ἐπὶ τὴν γλῶτταν προχέει καὶ ἄλλῳ τὴν ἑρμηνείαν τῶν λεγομένων χαρίζεται. πρὸς ὃ γάρ τις ἐπιτηδείαν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ παράσχῃ ψυχήν, ἐκείνου δὴ καὶ δεκτικὸς γίνεται τοῦ χαρίσματος. ἀλλὰ τὸ μὲν ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν παιδαγωγουμένων ψυχῶν ἢ κυβερνᾶν ταύτας καὶ διιθύνειν καὶ ἀπὸ πελάγους πρὸς τὸν θεῖον ἀνάγειν πυρσόν, τἆλλά τε ὅσα δὴ ὁ μέγας ἀπόστολος ἀπαριθμησάμενος φαίνεται, αὐτοτελῆ τυγχάνει καὶ ἀπροσδεᾶ τῆς παρ’ ἑτέρων συστάσεως· τὸ δὲ γλώσσαις λέγειν, τουτέστιν ἀθρόως μεταβεβλῆσθαι πρὸς τὰς τῶν προσιόντων φωνάς, ὡς νῦν μὲν Βαβυλώνιον, νῦν δὲ Περσίδα, νῦν δὲ Ἀσσύριον ἀφιέναι φωνήν, τοῦτο καθ’ ἑαυτὸ μὲν ἔλαττον ἰσχύει, συστὰν δὲ παρὰ τοῦ τῆς ἑρμηνείας χαρίσματος μεγαλωφελὲς τοῖς προσιοῦσιν ἐγένετο.

τί γὰρ δὴ ὁ φοιτῶν παρὰ τοὺς προφήτας ὠφέλητο Ἄραψ ὤν, ἐκείνων ὑπεραττικιζόντων ταῖς λέξεσιν, ἢ τὴν Ἀτθίδα γλῶτταν εἰδώς, ἐκείνων τὴν τῶν Φοινίκων διαλεγομένων; εἰ δ’ ὁ τοῦ τῆς ἑρμηνείας ἠξιωμένος χαρίσματος ἐφερμηνεύσειε τὰ λεγόμενα καὶ μεταβάλοι πρὸς ἃ γνοίη ὁ ἀκροώμενος, οὐ καινὸν δὴ τὸ τῶν γλωττῶν ἀπειργάσατο χάρισμα; τοῦτο γοῦν αὐτό φησιν ὅ τε μέγας ἀπόστολος καὶ ἡ θεολόγος φωνή, ὅτι ‘ἔστι διαφορὰ χαρισμάτων, ἄλλου δεομένη χαρίσματος πρὸς διάκρισιν τοῦ βελτίονος’, ὥσπερ ἡ τῶν γλωσσῶν τοῦ ταύτας διερμηνεύοντος.

Related Posts:

Part 1

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Further Finds in Michael Psellos

Looking around in the index of Gautier’s edition of Psellos’s Theologica, I found another short treatise on a passage in our passage on Oration 41.  Opusculum 74 deals with the nature of the miracle in Acts 2 and examines the question in Gregory’s terms: was it a miracle of speaking (i.e. the apostles were each speaking different languages), or was it a miracle of hearing (i.e. the apostles were speaking one language and each listener miraculously understood).  Psellos sides with Gregory from what I can tell, in that it was a miracle of speaking.  But he then goes on to discuss whether the apostles understood what they were speaking, and then examines a broad range of classical sources in an attempt to understand the miracle (Christian sources, Chaldean Oracles, Platonists (esp. Proclus), and also Socrates and Plotinus.  Just from a cursory look, the passage looks quite interesting.  Hopefully I’ll be able to post at least some excerpts with translation and commentary.  Time permitting of course!

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Michael Psellos On Prophecy and Spiritual Gifts (Part 1)

Below is my translation of Psellos’s passage explaining part of our enigmatic passage from Gregory.  The Greek text is found in Paul Gautier’s edition of Psellos’s Theologica, volume 1, opusculum 60.  It can be found in the TLG, and I’ve also consulted the printed text.  To my knowledge this passage has not been translated into English, though I’m not a Psellos scholar so I could easily be missing it.  I’ve been free when necessary with my translation, and suggestions are certainly welcome.

The text is rather interesting, even if I don’t quite follow all of it (particularly the bit about Pythagoras).  Psellos argues that prophecy etymologically refers to telling the future, perhaps on the basis of the prefix προ and the verb φημί, which does indeed make sense.  But he argues that in Scripture, prophecy refers only to those who foretell Christ’s coming.  He takes a rather broad understanding of “foretelling Christ’s coming” though, so that even Pythagoras, the great Greek philosopher, becomes a herald of Christ’s coming.  

The third paragraph here deals primarily with New Testament prophets, that is prophets after Christ.  Since they can no longer foretell Christ’s coming (it already happened!) Psellos has a difficulty with his prior definition.  But he argues that a person who receives the gift of prophecy after Christ and foretells the future may be called a prophet too, just like the men of old (Pythagoras included…).  Indeed, his analogy for the coming of the Spirit after Christ is not from the Old Testament, but rather from Athens.  The Spirit comes and sets up residence in our minds, just like he did in the Acropolis.  

I’ve a rough translation made of the rest, and will post it across one or two more posts.  

From Gregory of Nazianzus’s Oration on Pentecost, on the “And there is a type of gift…”

You all have asked me, what is this ‘type of gift,’ and how it is that some gifts require others to “distinguish the better,” as the great apostle says, while others are sufficient in themselves and do not require others to complete them.  Following this we may examine the saying, “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” (1 Cor 14:26-29) what exactly a message of prophecy is, and the exact meaning Divine Scripture gives to prophets, and finally how others have improperly received this title.  

Let us first attend to the last difficulty.  Prophecy consists entirely of foreseeing the future, which the etymology of the word reveals.  Thence anyone so inspired, whether by a night-prophecy while asleep, or reading from hands (which the wise ones of old have called palmistry), or through auspices, or some other manner may tell the future, and thus be called a prophet.  But Divine Scripture, though often in quite varied ways, reserves this word for those who announced the coming of the Lord in the flesh.  Pythagoras has done the same, for he adapted the name of wisdom, predicated on the various branches of knowledge, for the first philosophy.

Thus this wise man, who understand the principles of the branches of knowledge which proceeded from the mind, in this way became a prophet and herald of Christ’s coming in the flesh.  Just as this one may be properly called a prophet, so too may one who comes after Christ be called a prophet if he is given the gift of prophecy and foretells the future. It was not only until the coming of Christ, after all, that the Divine Spirit worked upon pure souls.  Rather, when Christ had ascended to heaven, another Paraclete came, and established himself in our mind just like he had in the Acropolis, and made his activity known to us.  This was especially the case in the time of Paul: as they were striving continually for knowledge about the better path, they would foretell the future, as ones moved in their souls by God, and they were thus called prophets.  But come now, as we’ve solved this difficulty, let us “briefly philosophize” [1] about the spiritual gifts.  

[1] A quotation from the beginning of Gregory’s oration 41, where he exhorts us “philosophize briefly, that we may celebrate the feast spiritually.” 

Greek Text

οϛʹ. Ἐκ τοῦ τῆς Πεντηκοστῆς λόγου, εἰς τὸ ‘ἔστι διαφορὰ χαρισμάτων’

Ἠρωτήκατε τίς ἡ τῶν ‘χαρισμάτων διαφορά’, καὶ πῶς τὰ μὲν ἑτέρων ‘δεῖται πρὸς διάκρισιν τοῦ βελτίονος’ κατὰ τὸν μέγαν ἀπόστολον, τὰ δὲ ἐντελῆ τυγχάνει καὶ ἀπροσδεᾶ καὶ καθ’ ἑαυτὰ ἰσχύοντα· ᾧ δὴ ἀκόλουθόν ἐστι γνῶναι ἡμᾶς ὅπως τὰ τῶν ‘προφητῶν πνεύματα προφήταις ὑποτάσ- σεται’, τίς τε ὁ τῆς προφητείας λόγος, καὶ τίνας μὲν κυρίως προφήτας ὀνομάζει ἡ θεία γραφή, τίνες δὲ καταχρηστικῶς τούτου τοῦ ὀνόματος τετυχήκασι.

Δεῖ οὖν τῷ ὑστέρῳ τῶν ἀπορηθέντων τὴν λύσιν πρῶτον ἐπενεγκεῖν. ὅτι μὲν γὰρ πᾶσα τοῦ μέλλοντος πρόρρησις προφητεία ἐστίν, αὐτό, φασί, τὸ ὄνομα δηλοῖ. ὁπόθεν γοῦν τις ὁρμώμενος, ἢ τῆς καθ’ ὕπνον μαντικῆς ἢ τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν χειρῶν διαγνώσεως, ἣν δὴ χειροσκοπικὴν οἱ πάλαι σοφοὶ ὠνομάκασιν, ἢ δι’ ὧν ὄρνις ἐγείρεται καὶ κλάζει ἢ ἄλλο τι δρᾷ, προλέγοι τὰ μέλλοντα, προφήτης οὗτός ἐστιν. ἀλλ’ ἡ θεία γραφή, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦτο εἰ πολλὰ διεσπαρμένον καὶ διῃρημένον συναγαγοῦσα πρὸς ἑαυτό, τοῖς τὴν ἐπιδημίαν τοῦ κυρίου προκαταγγείλασιν, ἣν διὰ σαρκὸς ἐνεδείξατο, φέρουσα ἐδωρήσατο. ὥσπερ δὴ καὶ Πυθαγόρας πεποίηκε· κἀκεῖνος γὰρ τὴν τῆς σοφίας προσηγορίαν, πολλῶν κατηγορουμένην ἐπιστημῶν, τῇ πρώτῃ φιλοσοφίᾳ προσήρμοσεν.

ὥσπερ οὖν σοφὸς ὁ τὰς τῶν ἐπιστημῶν ἀρχὰς ἐπιστάμενος, αἳ δὴ ἀπὸ νοῦ τὸ προϊέναι εἰλήχασιν, οὕτω δὴ καὶ προφήτης ὁ τῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ διὰ σαρκὸς παρουσίας κῆρυξ γενόμενος. ἀλλ’ οὗτος ἂν κυρίως μὲν προφήτης καλοῖτο, κληθείη δ’ ἂν καὶ ἄλλος τις, μετὰ Χριστὸν χαρίσματος ἠξιωμένος προφητικοῦ καὶ προλέγων τὰ μέλλοντα· οὐ γὰρ μέχρι τῆς τοῦ κυρίου ἐπιδημίας τὸ θεῖον πνεῦμα ἐπὶ τῶν καθαρῶν ἐνήργει ψυχῶν, ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ κἀκεῖνος πρὸς οὐρανοὺς ἀναβέβηκεν, ὁ παράκλητος αὖθις ἐπεφοίτα καί, ἐνιδρυμένος τῷ νῷ ὥσπερ ἐν ἀκροπόλει, φανερὰς αὐτοῦ τὰς ἐνεργείας ἐποίει. πλεῖστοι γοῦν ἐπὶ τῶν τοῦ Παύλου χρόνων, ἀθρόως τὴν γνώμην πρὸς τὸ κρεῖττον μεταποιούμενοι, προὔλεγόν τε τὰ μέλλοντα, θεοληπτούμενοι ἀφανῶς, κἀντεῦθεν προφῆται κατωνομάζοντο. ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ τοῦτο διαπορήσαντες διηρθρώκαμεν, φέρε δὴ καὶ περὶ τῶν χαρισμάτων ‘βραχέα φιλοσοφήσωμεν’.

Related Posts

Part 2.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Down the Rabbit Hole: Gregory Nazianzus and Michael Psellos

I tried again this morning to find the passage in Maximus the Confessor mentioned by Basil in his commentary on Gregory Nazianzus. I still have not found the right passage, and I may not.  But I have found something else of interest.  Michael Psellos, the great Byzantine intellectual of the 11th century, has a passage in his Theologica (section 76) devoted to explaining the “διάφορα χαρισμάτων” (distinction of gifts, or type of gift) in Gregory’s Oration 41.  About 1,000 words follow, in which he explains the passage from Gregory with what seems to be characteristic sophistication.  I hope to check Gautier’s edition in print soon.  Apparently there’s a short Latin introduction to each passage.  I have very little knowledge of Michael, so I’ve to tread carefully if I wish to make use of him for interpreting Gregory.

This sort of thing shows just how valuable the TLG can be.  It’s very unlikely I’d have found this passage otherwise.  Soon though I’ll have to stop chasing little threads like this and come back to Gregory himself!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Basil the Lesser on Spiritual Gifts

Below I transcribe and translate marginalia from Codex Monacensis Graecus 204, a Greek manuscript of the 13th century.  It contains orations of Gregory of Nazianzus with marginal notes from Basil the Lesser.  The note is similar in nature to the note given by Nicetas (see here for Nicetas’ text).  Both identify the “type of gift which requires another” as either prophecy or speaking in tongues.  However Basil identifies a source: Maximus the Confessor.  I had not thought to look at Maximus, even though he wrote quite a bit about Gregory.  Unfortunately I’ve yet to find Basil’s source in Maximus.  Perhaps a further search will turn something up, or perhaps Basil confused Maximus with someone else.  

Text and Translation

[folio 19r] τὴν διαφορὰν ταύτην τῶν χαρισμάτων, τοῖς (sic?) ἄλλου δεομένη χαρίσματος, τὴν προφητείαν φησι ὁ ἅγιος μάξιμος· καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν γλώσσαις. ἀλλ᾽ ἡ μὲν προφητεία δεῖται τοῦ τῆς  διακρίσεως χαρίσματος· τὸ διακρίνειν πνεύματων διαφορὰς τοῦ ἁγίου. ἡ τοῦ πονηροῦ καὶ δαιμονιώδης ἐστὶ πνεύματος. τοῦ δὲ χαρίσματος τῆς ἑρμηνείας δεῖται τὸ τῶν γλωσσῶν· ἵνα μὴ δόξῃ μαίνεσθαι ὁ γλώσσαις λαλῶν. ἐν δὲ τῇ διακρίσει τοῦ βελτίονος ὑπερτίθησι τὸ τῆς πορφητείας, καὶ τῶν γλωσσῶν ἐκείνων τῶν ὧν χρήζουσι πρὸς τὴν σφῶν αὐτῶν διάκρισιν, τῆς τὰς διακρίσεως τῶν πνευμάτων καὶ τῆς τῶν γλωσσῶν διακρίσεως.

The Holy Maximus says that this type of gift, which requires another, refers to both prophecy and speaking in tongues.  For prophecy requires the gift of discernment, to discern the different types of spirits of the Holy One, as demonic prophecy comes from the Evil Spirit.  But the gift of tongues requires the gift of interpretation, lest the speaker in tongues seem insane.  When distinguishing the better gift, both prophecy and tongues are superior to those which lack a complementary gift of their own for interpreting, like the discernment of spirits and the discernment  of tongues.  

Notes

There is not much to note beyond the introduction.  However, I have noticed that both Nicetas and Basil do not seem to treat the types of spiritual gifts as technical terms.  In modern charismatic/pentecostal parlance (at least that to which I’m accustomed), the different types of spiritual gifts have technical names.  The gifts most often listed this way are those in 1 Cor 12 (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, interpretation of tongues, etc.)  Both of these scholiasts lump “interpretation of tongues” and “discernment of spirits” under one heading which might be called “illumination gifts” or “interpretation gifts.”  In Greek Nicetas uses the terms “διάκρισις” (discernment, echoing Gregory and Paul) and “διασάφησις” (explanation or interpretation).  From what I can tell, they do imagine a catalogue of sorts for the different types of gifts, but the particular terminology is less important.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Commentary on Gregory of Nazianzus Or. 41:16

Here I translate the rest of Nicetas Heracleensis’ commentary on Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 41:15-16.  Gregory’s original is dense and tightly argued, so Nicetas’s commentary is most welcome.  For my translation of Gregory’s text (on which Nicetas comments here), see here.  For the original Greek (both of Gregory and Nicetas), see here.

Nicetas’ Commentary

The Theologian praises even the old division of tongues, when the one language was scattered, the ungodly plot and conspiracy was undone, and God foiled their senseless attempt. The aim of those making the tower was that if there was another flood, to run to this tower and so thwart the divine wrath. Some now dare to do in a similar manner, conspiring evil together against the Spirit and building a tower of ungodliness. But the holy father marvels at this present miraculous division of tongues much more, as it proceeds from one Spirit, pouring out to the many apostles, bringing about one harmony, and restoring the harmony of godliness. For if they were speaking in different tongues about Christ and the proclamation, they were speaking like the different cords of a lyre bringing about harmony as they spoke.

The types of gifts which “require another to interpret them,” are prophecy and speaking in tongues. For prophecy requires the gift of distinguishing of spirits, and the gift of tongues requires the gift of interpretation. But the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues are superior to those which lack other gifts to interpret and enlighten (that is, since they are complemented by discernment of spirits and interpretation of tongues). Knowing this the teacher says “to distinguish the better [gift].” For the apostles to speak in foreign languages is a type of gift that requires another gift, which is “discernment [of spirits],” in order to distinguish how it is that this gift is better and more excellent than the other gifts, since all gifts are worthy of honor.

The division of tongues which David spoke of is also good, “scatter the tongues of those who have loved words of confusion.” He speaks here against the tongues of the Pneumatomachians, who deny the divinity of the Spirit, and separate him from the Father and the Son. Thus he (Gregory) says that the the endless babble of the heretics, this plot against the Spirit, should be put down. Thus this division of tongues is fitting for those who plot and contemplate evil together.

Notes

Nicetas’s notes on Gregory are of interest.  His brief discussion of the tower of Babel raises an explanation I’ve never heard:  the impetus behind building the tower of Babel was to have a place to run during another flood.  This had never occurred to me, but it does make good sense.

The comments on spiritual gifts are what I find most interesting, and also most difficult to follow. Essentially Nicetas says there are two gifts which require another gift for “interpreting.”  One is prophecy, the other is speaking in tongues.  Prophecy requires the gift of discerning of spirits, and and tongues requires the gift of interpretation.  Prophecy, it seems, and tongues are both superior to other gifts that don’t have a “complement”.  Gregory’s reference to “discerning the better” is a reference to “discerning the better gift.”  That the apostles spoke in foreign languages is a spiritual charism that requires another (distinguishing spirits) to determine how it is that tongues is superior to the other charismata, since all of the gifts have something good in them. This section is a bit muddled though (at least for me), and I’d encourage anyone curious to look at the Greek.  There are a few different ways to interpret most of it.  Ι may very well revisit this in a future post.

The comments on the Psalm are a bit more straight-forward.  Nicetas tells us that Gregory is referring to the Pneumatomachians, who deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  This too is most likely right.  Gregory is concerned in this Oration to argue for the full divinity of the Spirit, a position on which even the Nicene party was muddled.  Here, he is oblique as he doesn’t want to openly attack potential allies (that is, those who accept the full divinity of the Son, but are unsure about the Holy Spirit).  

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

Origen: Ex Tempore Homilies Revisited

Several months ago, when the newly rediscovered Origen codex first came to light, I suggested that some of the homilies were impromptu lectures, possibly delivered in a school context rather than a church context.  That was mostly a guess based on the content of the homilies;  at that point I had not examined Eusebius very closely, or the work of Gregory Thaumatourgos (I still need to look at Epiphanius).  I still have plenty of primary source material to examine, but I’d like to revisit that suggestion now that I know a bit more.  I may just have made a lucky guess!

Steven Huller noted in a comment on that original post the Eusebius records that Origen only allowed tachygraphers to record his homilies near the end of his life (when he was past 60).  Here’s the passage in question:

Τότε δῆτα, οἷα καὶ εἰκὸς ἦν, πληθυούσης τῆς πίστεως πεπαρρησιασμένου τε τοῦ καθ’ ἡμᾶς παρὰ πᾶσιν λόγου, ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑξήκοντά φασιν ἔτη τὸν Ὠριγένην γενόμενον, ἅτε δὴ μεγίστην ἤδη συλλεξάμενον ἐκ τῆς μακρᾶς παρασκευῆς ἕξιν, τὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ λεγομένας αὐτῶι διαλέξεις ταχυγράφοις μεταλαβεῖν ἐπιτρέψαι, οὐ πρότερόν ποτε τοῦτο γενέσθαι συγκεχωρηκότα.  ἐν τούτωι καὶ τὰ πρὸς τὸν ἐπιγεγραμμένον καθ’ ἡμῶν Κέλσου τοῦ Ἐπικουρείου Ἀληθῆ λόγον ὀκτὼ τὸν ἀριθμὸν συγγράμματα συντάττει καὶ τοὺς εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον εἴκοσι πέντε τόμους τούς τε εἰς τοὺς δώδεκα προφήτας, ἀφ’ ὧν μόνους εὕρομεν πέντε καὶ εἴκοσι. (Hist. Eccl. 6.36)

My translation, with a little help from Williamson:

“Then at that time, while the faith was growing and our message had been boldly proclaimed in the presence of all, it was fitting for Origen, who was past 60 years of age and had gained great learning due to broad study, to allow tachygraphers to record his lectures spoken in public, which he had not consented to prior.  During this same time he wrote 8 books against the work True Doctrine of Celsus the Epicurean, along with 25 books on the Gospel of Matthew and 25 on the minor prophets, from which we have only 25.”

This is a puzzling passage for scholars.  What exactly are these public lectures?  Some argue that Eusebius is referring to debates like the Dialogue with Heraclides.  The majority opinion (at least Crouzel and Nautin, two very important of the recent Origen scholars) believe that Eusebius is referring to homilies spoken in the Church.  Since Nautin dates almost all of the homilies before 245, and he simply dismisses the account as a fiction.

But instead of dismissing the account, I’d suggest that we understand a different type of public lecture.  διαλέξις was a commonly used to describe philosophical lectures, and that is what I think we have here.  Origen was in charge of a philosophical school in Caesarea, and regularly gave lectures to his students.  Eusebius mentions this only obliquely in 6.30, but we get a vivid picture from Gregory Thaumaturgus’s Panegyric of Origen.

Within this passage, Eusebius mentions that the “our λόγος had been emboldened among all” and notes that these were spoken ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ, which might mean “before the church,” but could also mean “before the public.”  Finally, he mentions Origen’s Contra Celsum, which would explicitly confirm Origen’s abiding interest in Greek philosophy.  

We know that Origen gave many philosophical lectures in his school.  Likewise, Eusebius tells us that people came from all over to hear Origen lecture while he was in Caesarea (Hist. Eccl. 6.30).  Gregory also tells us that in addition to standard Greek philosophy, Origen lectured on biblical exegesis. (Orat. Paneg. 15).  

So why would Origen allow tachygraphers to record his homilies in the Church before his school lectures?  I think it’s mostly a matter of audience and subject matter.  School lectures would deal with topics on a much more sophisticated level, and involve much more philosophical speculation.  Origen would also have to be ready to answer questions from the audience, as there was plenty of interaction between students and teacher in a philosophical school.  Church homilies, on the other hand, would be targeted at a less sophisticated audience: thus he allowed tachygraphers to record these homilies earlier.  The subject matter was also lest controversial. 

Do we have any evidence for this in his writings? I think the new codex offers evidence for both types of discourse.  Homilies like the ones on Psalm 36 were probably spoken in the Church.  They deal with largely moral matters: Rufinus in his translator’s preface says that the explication in them is entirely moral (expositio tota moralis est.)  But others were probably spoken in the school.  The four on Psalm 76 are explicitly labelled in the heading as “Ex tempore Homilies on the 76th Psalm.” [εἰς τὸν οστ´ (sc. ψαλμὸν) ἐσχεδιασμέναι ὁμιλίαι].  (folio 170v.)  Here’s the snippet from the codex:

CMB314

I haven’t done an exhaustive check, but I haven’t seen any other homilies in the codex that are explicitly labeled as “impromptu.”  Likewise, I have only read through one of the four homilies, but it strikes me as a very good candidate for a school lecture.  Homily 3 on Psalm 76 begins with a question, “Of what sort are these waters that see God?”  Origen dives into a discussion on many speculative question: does the sky and earth have a soul?  Do rivers and seas have souls? How do angelic administrators work? (See here for my text and translation).

Thus, I’d suggest that Eusebius is referring to school lectures rather than church homilies in this passage.  I haven’t come across this solution in the secondary literature, but if you’ve seen this suggestion do let me know.  Furthermore, I think the new material gives us a chance to compare both types: school lecture and church homily.  I certainly look forward to hearing Perrone’s thoughts once the critical edition is published.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

ΜΑΘΠ

St. Antony: To the shame of the devil

I’ve been reading through Athanasius of Alexandria’s famous “Life of St. Antony.”  This work is widely recognized as the piece of writing that launched a whole genre of Christian literature: hagiography.  From ἅγιος (agios) and γραφή (graphe), Hagiography is the genre usually used by Christian writers to describe the lives of saints.

Antony was an enormous figure in early monasticism.  Having been born into a well-to-do family, he sold his possessions around the age of 18 and devoted himself to the ascetic life.  After the devil tried many things to trip up Antony, Athanasius reaches a mini-climax describing Antony’s victory.  I rather like the conclusion: (PG 26.819

All of these things became points of shame for the Enemy.  For the one who thought himself like God was being scolded by a child, and the one who boasted over flesh and blood was being rebuked by a man who bore flesh.  The Lord, who took on flesh for our sakes, and who by his body won victory over the devil, was working with Antony.  Thus those who struggle now against the Devil may each say, “not I, but the grace of God within me!”  (1 Cor 15:10)

Athanasius’s greek is not too difficult here. He’s writing ostensibly to monks, and so doesn’t use a grand rhetorical style. He does, however, add nice touches, which probably don’t come through adequately in the translation. It is a fun work though, and I’d encourage anyone to look at it!

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ

Flux, Trinity, and Union- More From Gregory

I’ve decided to try my hand at a bit more from Gregory’s “On the Spirit.” (cf. here). This portion describes the Divine nature:

It is Triune Union,

It is Threefold Unity.

Neither stream, nor sea, nor rushing river,

One threefold flow rushing down against the earth.

Nor as a gleam of light, returning to its flame,

Nor as a word proceeding from the mind

        yet therein abides—

Nor as a ray of the sun dances

Upon the waters and the walls:

It whirls off before the approach,

Yet arrives before leaping away.

Divine nature knows no flux:

It neither flows apart nor returns to itself,

Eternal center, age to age it is.

And the Greek:

ἐκ μονάδος Τρίας ἐστι, καὶ ἐκ Τριάδος μονὰς αὖθις,     (60)

οὔτε πόρος, πηγή, ποταμὸς μέγας, ἕν τε ῥέεθρον

ἐν τρισσοῖσι τύποισιν ἐλαυνόμενον κατὰ γαίης·

οὔτε δὲ πυρκαϊῆς λαμπὰς πάλιν εἰς ἓν ἰοῦσα,

οὔτε λόγος προϊών τε νόου καὶ ἔνδοθι μίμνων,

οὔτε τις ἐξ ὑδάτων κινήμασιν ἡλιακοῖσι     (65)

μαρμαρυγή, τοίχοισι περίτρομος, ἀστατέουσα,

πρὶν πελάσαι φεύγουσα, πάρος φυγέειν πελάουσα,

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἄστατός ἐστι θεοῦ φύσις ἠὲ ῥέουσα

ἠὲ πάλιν συνιοῦσα· τὸ δ᾽ἔμπεδόν ἐστι θεοῖο.

The Homeric references are fewer. We do have some common homeric words show up (like the verb ἐλαύνω), and Homer does use similar language when discussing rivers. In its place, though, we get a series of negative descriptions; that is, they describe what God is not. Gregory tells us that the godhead is not like a rushing river, flowing in three parts. Nor is it a ray of light, that shoots forth and returns, or a beam of light dancing on the water. His point is stated at the end of the excerpt: the divine nature is not subject to change or flux. But even when describing what God is not, he uses lovely images. One vividly pictures light bouncing against the water off the walls of a city. Gregory is fond of employing light imagery for the trinity, and a few lines laters he says, “one nature, firmly established in three lights.” But here he paints a delightful picture, even as a negative description.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ